November 8, 2003
AOPA warned county officials in Contra Costa County, Calif. that they're in for a fight if they try to close Buchanan Field in Concord, Calif., and not just from AOPA.
A member of the county Board of Supervisors wants to solicit proposals to redevelop the airport. But after researching the airport's deed history, AOPA discovered that the federal government gave Buchanan Field to Contra Costa County as surplus property after World War II on the condition that it remain a public-use airport or be returned to the federal government. There is no other option. AOPA's discussions with the FAA confirm the federal government does not want the airport closed.
In a letter to County Supervisor Mark DeSaulinier, AOPA Vice President of Airports Bill Dunn wrote, " AOPA is very concerned about your actions and is vigorously opposed to any effort to close Buchanan Field [original emphasis]."
Dunn cautioned DeSaulinier about public comments he made recently suggesting that the airport could be closed and developed for other purposes. Dunn said the county official was "setting up unrealistic expectations."
The surplus land agreement notwithstanding, the county has also accepted millions of dollars in federal grant money under the Airport Improvement Program. That money comes with strings attached—operate the airport as a public-use airport for 20 years from the time the grant is approved.
"AOPA will use all resources available to us to ensure the existing federal agreements are upheld and Buchanan Field is not allowed to close," said Dunn.
But he also noted that continuing to operate Buchanan Field as an airport benefits the county. "Buchanan Field is home to more than 580 aircraft, supports 156,896 flight operations annually, and is included in the Federal Aviation Administration's National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems, making it a facility critical to the public benefit as a part of the national transportation system."
Dunn concluded, "Every airport in the United States is vital. Rather than exploring continued discussions about airport closure and redevelopment options, AOPA asks for your support in promoting the airport and exploring ways in which the airport can be the cornerstone for the development and economic well-being of your community."
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AOPA is urging Santa Rosa County officials who operate Peter Prince Field in Milton, Fla., to revise proposed rules to eliminate potential conflicts.
The House has passed a bill requiring the TSA to consult stakeholders, including general aviation representatives, before making major changes to security policy.
AOPA thanks our members for their continued support in protecting the freedom to fly.